E-cigarette giant Juul is paying WA $ 22.5 million to settle the lawsuit

Juul Labs, the e-cigarette giant, will pay $ 22.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the state of Washington, which claimed it was deliberately targeting teens with its products while misleading consumers about their vaping addiction products, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday.

“Juul’s behavior hurt the Washingtonians,” Ferguson said. “Juul violated the law; they did it again and again. “

Ferguson said the company “drove a staggering increase in gun use” that “turned decades of progress in the fight against young people’s nicotine addiction.”

Under the settlement, Juul admits no misconduct or liability and says it is settling “for the purpose of compromise” and to avoid further lawsuits.

Juul must also stop all advertising that appeals to young people, and stop most of the advertising on social media, with limited exceptions. It may continue to run Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn ads showing adults who were regular cigarette smokers testifying about Juul products.

Juul had already in 2019 announced the suspension of all print, broadcast and digital advertising in the United States.

Juul must also conduct a “secret shopper” program in Washington to confirm the age of his customers, with at least 25 checks a month for at least two years. The secret shopper program, described by Ferguson as the “most robust” in the country, requires shoppers to confirm that retailers adhere to age and product limits and then report back to the state’s attorney.

The settlement money is paid out over four years. Ferguson’s office will use it to set up a new “health equity” unit to respond to “misleading and discriminatory health care practices that disproportionately affect vulnerable communities and colored communities.”

Austin Finan, a Juul spokesman, said the company supports efforts to address the use of minors, including future surveillance and enforcement.

“This settlement is another step in our ongoing efforts to reset our business and resolve past issues,” Finan said. “The terms of the settlement are consistent with our current business practices and previous agreements to help combat the use of minors while offering adult smokers access to our products when switching away from flammable cigarettes.”

Juul is currently facing similar lawsuits in at least 12 other states, Ferguson said.

Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in 2020 in King County Superior Court, claimed that from 2015, Juul used a social media campaign featuring young models with bright colors and “concepts of being ‘cool’, ‘smooth’ and ‘hip’.”

Juul used “youth-friendly flavors” in an introductory starter kit that included cool mint, fruit medley and creme brûlée, Ferguson wrote, claiming that Juul “knew these flavors were the most popular among underage consumers.”

The marketing worked. In 2019, more than 20% of high school students reported having used vape products within the previous 30 days, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study. Juul at the time had more than 70% of the e-cigarette market, Ferguson wrote.

But teens’ e-cigarette use has declined recently. By 2020, 19.6% of high school students recently reported using e-cigarettes, according to the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey. Last year, that figure fell to 11.3 percent.

Juul stopped selling fruit and dessert flavors in October 2019 as it sought to dampen political setbacks, even though the discontinued flavors accounted for less than 10% of the company’s sales.

The company also misleadingly marketed its e-cigarettes to all consumers, not just children and teens, Ferguson claimed. The company represented a Juul pod that had roughly the same nicotine content as a pack of cigarettes, Ferguson wrote, when a pod can actually deliver twice as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

Juul also marketed its products as a smoking cessation, although it did not have the necessary FDA approval to make such claims, Ferguson claimed.

“The existing evidence is insufficient to demonstrate that JUUL products are effective in helping users quit smoking,” Ferguson wrote. “On the other hand, the opposite concern is very real: that people (especially young people) are starting to use e-cigarettes and switching to traditional cigarettes.”

The settlement is the latest in a series between Juul and states that claimed the company had engaged in misleading practices and marketed its e-cigarettes to children.

In November, the company agreed to pay Arizona $ 14.5 million and promised not to market to young people in the state. Last June, the company agreed to pay North Carolina $ 40 million, even though it denied any wrongdoing or liability. The company also said it has reached a settlement with Louisiana.

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